It’s the time of the year many kids are looking forward to going back to school. Yet for many refugee children, this is not a possibility. Worldwide close to half – 48 per cent – of all refugee children remain out of school. The ones who are able to attend also can often face unique sets of challenges.
In this week’s blog, we will look closer at some at some of the ways Goodwill Caravan’s Core Action Triangle of Medical, Legal, and Shelter protection projects have worked with families over the years to help refugee children not only attend school in Greece but also succeed as students.
Refugee children suffer from high rates of posttraumatic stress symptoms, depression, anxiety, and other psychological trauma that can hinder their ability to attend and perform well in school. GWC’s Medical Office excels at identifying children in need of medical and psychological care, facilitating access to mental health and psychosocial support services while coordinating care and arranging treatment plans for these children. This support, which includes translation and accompaniment services, is done in coordination with Hellenic Healthcare Service and partner organisation such as Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders), Medical Volunteers International and Agia Sofia Children Hospital. Last year, GWC Medical Office assisted over 150 children with identified care needs.
A key emphasis the GWC Medical Office’s is facilitating access to immunisations for the huge numbers of unvaccinated refugee children in Greece. To enrol in schools, all children in Greece need proof of relevant vaccinations. Yet over 90% of the families we worked with stated that they experienced difficulties in finding information on how to get vaccines, schedule appointments with a doctor and finding the doctor’s location; there are also language barriers, and for those without an AMKA (social security number), vaccines can be unaffordable. The repercussions of these barriers are severe, and we regularly observe cases where children have had to wait more than a year for their routine vaccinations, during which time they are unable to attend schools.
GWC’s Medical Office is uniquely positioned to overcome these barriers and facilitate access to vaccinations and related paperwork. For those without social security cover, the Office can source vaccinations privately in the short run while our Legal Office supports them through their asylum and social security applications to speed up their access to the public healthcare system.
Refugees and asylum seekers uncertain legal and residential status also presents a key barrier to accessing education. In addition to mandatory vaccination records for registration, Greek schools also ask for an asylum seeker’s card (or application for such a card), proof of residence and a health certificate, among other possible documents. Difficulties and delays in issuing these records can delay and block refugee children’s access to education.
GWC Legal Office focuses on assisting vulnerable refugees throughout the journey from registration as asylum seekers until they are fully integrated in Greece and have the legal right to work or attend school as persons granted full protection status. Access to health, housing, and other services and related legal documents all depend on refugees’ asylum status. It is here where GWC’s Legal Office excels. In 2020, for example, the Greek national figures for positive first instance asylum applications was only 43%, with many valid claims for asylum rejected simply because the process is too complex and requires professional guidance. GWC mostly works with beneficiaries who have had previous rejections, and, with the assistance of our Legal Office, the chance of success of an asylum application increases by up to 75%. In 2021, the Legal Office assisted 8,412 refugees and asylum seekers, with success rates typically much higher than the national average.
Another common barrier to accessing education is the lack of stability in terms of living conditions, with the frequent movement of refugee families to different regions of the country in search of better living conditions or the sudden changes of place of residence for families living in temporary accommodations.
GWC’s Emergency Shelter Project aims to provide sanctuary and stability to those most in need until they can secure a permanent safe home. Goodwill Caravan House shelter in Central Athens is designed with single mothers and children who are not safe on their own in camps or are living in the streets in mind.
This project not only offers these beneficiaries a roof over their heads, but also works closely with other GWC projects to offer them legal and medical aid in addition to labour market and integration support, including language classes, while we provide them with additional relief in the form of baby essentials, winter clothes and nutritional food packs. Last year, GWC sheltered 145 vulnerable refugees, close to half of whom were minors.
These are just some of the ways Goodwill Caravan’s core Action Triangle has supported children in attending schools and return to one of the most essential experiences of childhood.
Next week, we will look closer at some of Goodwill Caravan’ future plans to offer more direct educational support, including school bus services, for refugee families living in the Athens area.
Goodwill Caravan’s emergency Action Triangle consists of 3 core projects – the Legal Office, Medical Office and Emergency Shelter Project – which work symbiotically to deliver a holistic package of support to the most vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers. From the most basic life necessities to complex legal cases, our one-stop shop of service provides beneficiaries with a full package of support tailored to the needs of each individual or family. This support includes working with families to address common challenges displaced refugee children face in attending school.
For the upcoming school, Goodwill Caravan hopes to be: